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How Using Data in Creativity is Just Like Making Pizza

3 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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As they say, marketers ruin everything.

Because everywhere you turn, there's an ad. And because of that, advertising has become white noise. Nobody pays attention to it.

More than ⅔ of the US is turning to Netflix and Hulu, rather than TV. Digital display is lucky to get a tenth of a percent in click through rates. And the lopsided cost of print and billboards for their efficacy is laughable.

But that doesn't mean advertising doesn't work. It just doesn't work the way we've been doing it.

Your Name In a Noisy Room

You're at a party. There's noise filling the room: music, laughter, talking. It's that loud hum that's everywhere and nowhere at once.

Then you hear your name. And your ears perk up.

That's pretty crazy. Out of all that noise filling the air, you heard your name. Because it was relevant to you. And it doesn't just work with your name. Your favorite song comes on. A face you know catches your eye. You recognize your mother's laundry detergent on a random stranger.

If something's relevant to you, it can stand out among the noise.

The problem is, we've never been able to make advertising truly relevant. So, we aimed at lowest common denominators to gain attention: faces, babies, puppies, girls in bikinis, George Clooney. You know, things everybody likes.

But when everyone uses those tricks, the world starts ignoring them. That's how we became white noise.

But that's where data comes in. It lets us make advertising relevant, in different ways, to different people. It lets us say your name among the noise. But creativity, the stuff that doesn't come from the numbers and research, that's how we say your name. And everyone knows it's not only what you say, it's how you say it.

Data Is Like Pizza

Okay, everyone likes pizza. I mean, everyone who's not crazy likes pizza. Good, old-fashioned pizza: crust, sauce, cheese. Maybe pepperoni.

But see, my favorite is hawaiian pizza. Though, for some reason, lots of people hate putting pineapple and ham on theirs. They like peppers and mushrooms. Or maybe meatballs. Then others like anchovies.

Now, if you put anchovies on my pizza, I'll throw it out. I won't even like that pizza anymore. The same goes for everyone else: the wrong topping makes a crappy pizza, and the wrong use of data will destroy creative. But the right topping, it's way better than a plain pizza, any day of the week.

That's how data works. Those universal hooks, that's what the pizza is. But the toppings, that's data. It has the ability to spoil or improve. You can't make a pizza out of toppings, you can't just have data. The whole thing, that's the creative: pizza and toppings together. Creatives are the chefs.

And a chef needs to know what toppings are their customer's, favorites. It's not what the chef loves. It's what the customer loves. And the best chefs, the best creatives, make the best thing for them.

To do that, you need to know how to use the ingredients. So, creatives, we need to know how to use data to make what the audience wants. But most creatives don't, and don't seem to want to. They're making the same pizza for everyone.

Pizza at a Crowded Party

Think of someone calling your name to get your favorite pizza. That would get your attention, no matter how noisy it was.

That's what we need to do, as creatives: understand what's relevant to our audience, so that we can create around that. Not everyone likes the same toppings on their pizza. And you won't respond to someone else's name in a noisy room. You want a slice of meat lover's and you want to hear your name.

Otherwise, it's all just noise.

Thanks for reading!

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